Little Novels

Author: Wilkie Collins


WHEN I arrived at my rooms, my colleague hurried to meet me the moment I opened the door.

"I am going to surprise you," he said; "and there is no time to prepare you for it. Our chief, the Minister, has seen the Prince this morning, and has been officially informed of an event of importance in the life of the Princess. She is engaged to be married to the Grand Duke."

Engaged to the Duke—and not a word from her to warn me of it! Engaged—after what she had said to me no longer ago than the past night! Had I been made a plaything to amuse a great lady? Oh, what degradation! I was furious; I snatched up my hat to go to the palace—to force my way to her—to overwhelm her with reproaches. My friend stopped me. He put an official document into my hand.

"There is your leave of absence from the legation," he said; "beginning from to-day. I have informed the Minister, in strict confidence, of the critical position in which you are placed. He agrees with me that the Princess’s inexcusable folly is alone to blame. Leave us, Ernest, by the next train. There is some intrigue going on, and I fear you may be involved in it. You know that the rulers of these little German States can exercise despotic authority when they choose?"

"Yes! yes!"

"Whether the Prince has acted of his own free will—or whether he has been influenced by some person about him—I am not able to tell you. He has issued an order to arrest an old Frenchman, known to be a republican, and suspected of associating with one of the secret societies in this part of Germany. The conspirator has taken to flight; having friends, as we suppose, who warned him in time. But this, Ernest, is not the worst of it. That charming singer, that modest, pretty girl—"

"You don’t mean Jeanne?"

"I am sorry to say I do. Advantage has been taken of her relationship to the old man, to include that innocent creature in political suspicions which it is simply absurd to suppose that she has deserved. She is ordered to leave the Prince’s domains immediately.—Are you going to her?"

"Instantly!" I replied.

Could I feel a moment’s hesitation, after the infamous manner in which the Princess had sacrificed me to the Grand Duke? Could I think of the poor girl, friendless, helpless—with nobody near her but a stupid woman-servant, unable to speak the language of the country—and fail to devote myself to the protection of Jeanne? Thank God, I reached her lodgings in time to tell her what had happened, and to take it on myself to receive the police.


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Chicago: Wilkie Collins, "X.," Little Novels, trans. Evans, Sebastian in Little Novels Original Sources, accessed March 25, 2019,

MLA: Collins, Wilkie. "X." Little Novels, translted by Evans, Sebastian, in Little Novels, Original Sources. 25 Mar. 2019.

Harvard: Collins, W, 'X.' in Little Novels, trans. . cited in , Little Novels. Original Sources, retrieved 25 March 2019, from